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Mirror-Image

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  “You must not have any other god but me. 4  “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)

Arrogance, the ontological lie by which man makes himself God, is overcome by the humility of God, who makes himself the slave, who bows down before us. The man who wants to come close to God must be able to look upon him—that is essential. But he must likewise learn to bend, for God has bent himself down. In the gesture of humble love, in the washing of feet, in which he kneels at our feet—that is where we find him.

Scripture tells us that we were created in the image of God, and it tells us that we are to imitate Him.  (1 Cor 11:1)  It tells us we are transformed into His image ( Romans 12, 2 Cor. 3)

I think somehow we have twisted this, instead of reflecting God’s image to the world, we reflect our image into what we see as God. We are more subtle than the ancients who created their idols of brass and gold, from wood and stone.  Instead, the image we create serves our vanity, it serves our desires, our will.

Will the image of God we see look like us?  And if so, will it be the image of one who kneels, who washes feet, who cares for the poor, who welcomes the alien, the sick, the prisoner?   Will we, who want encounter God be willing to encounter and look like the one who was bruised and broken for others?

Is our the glory that we see in God the glory of His love for us, as His suffering brings us healing and wholeness?  Or do we want to see Him perfect, unmarred, triumphant, unbreakable?

We need to see the Lord who washes our feet, who bandages our wounds, who is broken and marred and crucified, for us.  Are we willing to be patient, so that person doesn’t perish, so that person can be transformed into God’s image as well?  We need to mee the God who is broken for us…for only there can we meet Him.

And for those of us who preach and teach about Jesus, what image of Him do we portray for people to imitate?

The God who loves us enough to bow down before us, or some other god..

Lord Jesus, help us to see your love, as you wash and heal us, serve us…and as you make us whole, help us to be there for others.  AMEN!

Question to think through:   How do you picture God?  How does that affect your interactions with others?

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Necessary for Ministry: A gentle and humble spirit.

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV)

329         We all need to foresee our lack of objectivity whenever we have to judge our own behaviour. This applies to you too.  (1)

If we are to guide people to Jesus and the cross, we need to do it as He did. 

In the passage above Jesus talks of being gentle and humble in Spirit.  Look into the Greek a little and you will find the words underlying those two thoughts include words like empathetic, compassionate, caring, and subservient, self-sacrificing, not proud.  

It is similar to the list of attributes that Paul lists in regards to love in 1 Corinthians 13, the love which is necessary for ministry, for preaching and prophesying.  The unique combination of love and mercy that puts the good of the other first, no matter what the cost, even the cost of death.  An interesting side note to this was from another devotional book of mine,

He reminded us that the scarlet robe of the cardinals is a symbol of their readiness to undergo martyrdom. The Church explains this in the formula: “He who wears it must be willing to defend the faith usque ad effusionem sanguinis—even to the shedding of blood.”  (2) 

It is that love that results in Jesus, and all who imitate and follow him to be gentle and humble in their ministry to others, calling them not to a legalistic obedience, but to hear God, and love Him back by walking with Him, (and therefore obeying, as the Old Testament promised from the law written on their hearts) 

This isn’t an easy way to minister, and like the cardinals of old were reminded that their ministry could indeed include their martyrdom, we who minister, whether lay or clergy, have to be prepared to offer our lives as living sacrifices.  (see Romans 12)  For most of us, that doesn’t include a physical martyrdom, but one of our will, one of our hearts (which are circumcised by God  – Col. 2) 

Which is St Josemaria’s point in the quote in blue. We have to be aware of our lack of objectivity, we have to be able to recognize when “we” get in the way of His work.  We need to examine ourselves and pray that God would eradicate in us the tendency to be proud and the spirit that is narcissistic.

Not because of some legalistic pietism, and not even so that we actually minister more effectively.  Rather, because we are trusting God, realizing that walking with Him is walking in the promise our baptism, and in letting the Spirit transform us (see 2 Cor 3) more and more into His image results in this. 

Gentle and humble, empathetic and self-sacrificing, ministering effectively because we are allowing  ( and we grow to desire this ) God to crucify our egos, our lack of objectivity, even as we are embraced by God on that same cross. We learn to depend upon Him that much.

This is the life of faith, it is time to live it, it is time to enjoy this peace.  AMEN!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1546-1547). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Out of Sight? Out of Mind?

pope-francis-on-the-building-of-the-churchDevotional Thought of The Day:

33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a bowl;p instead, he puts it on the lamp-stand, so that people may see the light as they come in. 34Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.”  Luke 11:33-36  TEV

Constantine the Great, having written with great respect to St. Anthony, the religious about him were greatly astonished. “Why,” said he, “do you feel astonished that a king should write to a man? Be astonished, rather, that the Eternal God should have written down his law to mortal men; yea, more, should have spoken to them by word of mouth in the person of his Son.”  (1)

God does not want
a house built by people,
but faithfulness to his word
and acceptance of his design.
It is God himself
who builds the house
but of living stones
marked by his Spirit.

It is a blessing for parents of toddlers, this truth that out of sight, out of mind.  

Yet it is true for us as adults as well, and then can become a curse if we aren’t careful.  For the longer our eyes are taken off of something, the easier it is for us to forget and even neglect that which was once all important. 

Like God.

We can forget Him, if not completely, then enough to obscure who He is, what He has instilled in us.

His peace, His comfort, His mercy, His love.

And what it means to live life in reflection of that love.  What Pope Francis calls “His design”, what He wills, the plans He has laid out for us. The more we neglect seeing Chirst in our lives, the more sin reigns, the more it makes sense, the more it offers false comfort, quickly fading imitations of joy, and quickly tires us out. A lack of seeing Christ leasd us to a life we cannot be satisfied with, on that quickly turns toxic, as we do what is right in our own eyes. 

We need to regain this vision of Christ, we need to let His light enter through our eyes, to contemplate, to think about, to become enlightened to the depth of His love for us, His people, His family.  We need to realize that not only did God love us enough to guide our lives with His law. but that He revealed us the love in and through Jesus.  

He is our light, He is our life, and our thoughts need to be infused by the presence of our God.  Not as in a rote behavior, or religious obligation, but as our very life.  With the joy that comes from walking with One whose love for you is proven over and over. 

So fill your eyes with Him! Fill your mind with those things that we praise Him for, things that are true, noble, holy, just, pure, lovely, sacrificial, (see Phil.4:8)   

He is with you!

AMEN!

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

(1)  Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

 

The Simple Christian’s Life….


Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20  so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. 21  But as for those who long for vile images and detestable idols, I will repay them fully for their sins. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!”   Ezekiel 11:19-21 (NLT)

295      Any time is the right time to make an effective resolution, to say “I believe”, to say “I hope”, to say “I love”.  (1)

 A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
3 If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.
4 The purpose of this commandment, therefore, is to require true faith and confidence of the heart, and these fly straight to the one true God and cling to him alone.  (2)

This morning, my devotional reading contained the green and blue quotes above.  They are simple, they describe a simple life, they describe the Christian life.

I wish they described my life more, I long for that to be my reality.

Or rather, I desire that to be my only reality.

Like Paul, there seems to be a war within me, as various things compete to be my “god”. Or should I say, I choose to allow things to compete for that role.  It is hard to admit, but I want leaders I can trust in, in whom I can entrust my life, my

It is hard to admit, but I want leaders I can trust in, in whom I can entrust my life, my family’s and my church’s future.  I want them – both secular and church leaders who will be just and righteous, gracious and merciful.  Yet I become cynical when they don’t provide when they don’t comfort; when they are proven to be as broken.  For these “gods” I would entrust myself to fail.

But even more dangerous is for me to rebel from them, and make myself my God.  It is an easy thing to do as well, encouraged by the world that tells me I have to look out for myself.  The world that teaches us that we are the captain of our fate, that if we have the right attitude, and a strong enough world, we can achieve what we desire. The same world that laughs, or worse, ignores me, when I fall on my face, and can’t get up on my own.

Enough failures and my heart will become hard, crusted over with by scars and bruises.  I want to become immune to the failures, and I become offensive, assured that it is better than being on the defensive.  But the offensiveness offends, and I can’t endure my own heart, my own attitude, my own life.

It is amid these moments of not just being broken, but being shattered that I come across Luther and Escriva and so many others, men who knew their own brokenness, and battled it on their knees, and in the scriptures,   Men who found incredible hope, and when all is said and done, the answer was simple.

Flee to God.

Cling to Him,

Believe Him and the promises He made us.  Depend on them.

Find the hope for our healing in the new Spirit given us, and

Adore the God, who works in our lives. He who always cares for His people.  My friends, you and I need, desperately need to believe in, find hope and live this God, who comes to us in our brokenness and replaces our broken hearts with one’s that find great joy is singing His praises.

This is the simple Christian life; one lives depending on God, clinging to Him. for He is our God.

It may seem too simple, but it is walking humbly with our Father, our God…..

Because of that, it is a life lived in sanctuary, and in great peace….

Lord Have mercy on us!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1199-1201). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Imitate God – Live a Life filled with love

Imitate God
Live a Life Filled With Love!

Ephesians 4:17–5:2

In Jesus Name

This is my prayer for you, that because of the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, you would desire to live a life filled with His love, and imitate Christ Jesus in everything you do.


The Difference Between Playing God.. and Imitating Him

It was once said that the sincerest form of compliment was for someone to imitate you.

Well, it is a compliment as long as they imitate something you like about yourself.

For example, a lady asking another lady for a recipe.

That’s a compliment.

Another pastor asking if he can use a sermon, or learn Chris’s liturgy music, those are compliments.

Someone choosing to become a teacher, or a doctor or even a pastor, because of the impact that a teacher, doctor or pastor had on their life.

Those are compliments as well!

Is someone trying to duplicate my golf swing?

That’s not a compliment; that is insanity!

In today’s epistle reading, there are two different models to imitate, to mimic.  One is insanity; the other seems impossible, but it is actually rather simple.

One is imitating the Gentiles.

The other is imitating God.

One possible, the other insanity….

Imitating the World is Simply Playing God  The Sin of Self Idolatry

Let’s deal with imitating the Gentiles.  Or as Paul says, living like the Gentiles, following the patterns and lifestyles of the world.

It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in Psychology to see how crazy the world is.

Paul describes it well by saying that those living without a relationship with God are hopelessly confused, that their minds are lost in a darkness that consumes them.  Paul goes on to describe them as close minded to God and having no sense of shame.  They are people that live for whatever seems pleasurable, chasing after whatever is popular, no matter how degrading, how filthy, how degrading, how evil.

As long as it meets what they consider their needs….

Need for pleasure, for fun, for comfort, for approval. Or simply if it helps them get what they want.  It is narcissism, self-centeredness Or put more simply, it is telling God his guidance is worthless, and replacing his rules with your own.  Don’t worry about those ten commandments, or loving our neighbor, the world says.  Scripture isn’t relevant or real! Do what seems right in your own eyes, and if peopled question you, tell them to not judge you.

That was the gGentilesattitude, it is definitely the world’s attitude today.

But there is a problem here… one we need to think through.

Lest we only judge those out in the world, I need you to recognize what Paul is telling this church, perhaps the most mature of all the churches he ministered to.

Look at this carefully

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do,

Now, let’s think about this.  You don’t have to tell people to not do something, unless they are doing it!

And if you are an apostle, you don’t have to add, “with the Lord’s authority”, unless you know they are really going to struggle with you on the matter.

The people in the church in Ephesus struggled with living like the world.

If we are honest, we struggle with it as well.  It’s not that we really want to, but some habits are hard to break.  Temptations can be hard to overcome.

Paul lists a bunch of sin, buts the key is in verse 22.  Sin is the result of lives corrupted by two things, the first is lust, desiring things that aren’t yours.  The second thing that corrupts our lives is what is translated as deception, but is more like seduction.  The things that distract us, attract our attention and cause us to hunger for them.

The sin dominated one is a insane life, for we don’t have the wisdom to choose wisely.  It is crazy to say we know better than God. That we know what is good for us.

But there is an option to imitating the world.

Imitating God  The life of the Transformed

We need to make sure we understand the difference between playing God, and imitating God.

The gentiles and the world, and yes often we play God.  That is sin.

But Paul calls us to imitate God, to follow the example of Jesus.  That requires something important.  You see a hint of it on the cover of the bulletin.  It is a transformation as incredible as that which occurs when a hungry caterpillar becomes a majestic butterfly.

A transformation that begins when you were baptized.

A transformation that happens as Paul describes, in verse 23,

let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

and

Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Unlike the butterfly, our transformation is started, empowered and completed by Christ.  It occurs as we spend time realizing His presence in our lives, the promise of our Baptism.   It happens as we contemplate how much He loves us, and the freedom that gives us.

For the old controlling forces that corrupted our lives have been broken and we are free to see God’s reconciliation spread, even as Paul describes

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

This is not a command as we think of it, and imperative you must.  It is more like discovering something incredible, a blessing of proportions!

Bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, gossip, all evil behavior can be stripped off of us, and as we are united to Jesus, we find ourselves being dressed with God’s love, with His mercy, even as we begin to resemble Christ…even as we are being healed.

Because we are imitating God.

Like a child, wanting to be like his dad…

This is what happens when you trust in God, when you depend on Him.

We are changed, we are transformed… and instead of being locked into a life shaped and modeled by the world, we find something incredible, a journey through life, that as we mature, as we are drawn deeper and deeper into a relationship with Jesus… causes us to resemble Him more… and these words become our life

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love,

AMEN!

Imitate God – Live a Life Filled with Love (Sermon for 8/9 – Audio-Video)

Imitating Christ Not as Hard as you think

Featured imageDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Day

34  And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 (TEV)

“All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.[1]

Thy kingdom come.”  What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.

How is this done?

Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.[2]

824    Have you noticed how human love consists of little things? Well, divine love also consists of little things. (3)

Over the course of history, theologians have wasted a lot of time on the arguments about whether the scripture is applicable today.  Some say the Old Testament law is no longer binding.  Some say you only preach the law to those who are not believers.  Others say that a lack of holiness, a lack of strict obedience to scripture (or at least certain parts of it) shows a lack of faith, and may result in the same judgment as an unbeliever.

What a colossal waste of time!

What a shameful waste of time and effort from those who are supposed to be our teachers, those who are to shepherd us.

The above quotes in green are from Luther’s small catechism. They were written to help a dad teach his children about God, about the precious relationship we have with them.  They describe a relationship where God’s love and mercy transform us into His children.  As His children, we respond to that love instinctually, we do what St Josemaria calls the “little things”.  We think about Him (and His people) we take on the mundane, we sacrifice, all without thinking about it, because God loves us, and we adore Him.

This is the Godly life Luther mentions, caused by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  We lose our desire to please ourselves, and we find pleasure in the presence of God and His people.  We find ourselves devoted to the one who is devoted to us.

This isn’t Ph.D. level theology.  It is a life of faith….

it is the response to crying out, “have mercy…” and realize He has….

Love Him, love those He loves…..you don’t need a Ph.D. for that… just the ability to do the little things.

AMEN

[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

[2] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(3)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1892-1893). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We Can See!

2 Cor. 3:12-4:6

 May the glorious gifts of mercy and peace you receive from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ shine into your world, as God transforms you into the image of Christ!

The Unnerving Glorious Mathematical Law

Featured imageAs we look at the incredible Transfiguration of Jesus, we need to understand it mathematically.

That is right; I said Mathematically.

We can show this mathematically, because of the of the epistle reading.  We can understand why the transfiguration is much more than what was revealed that day to the three terrified apostles.   As we see Christ revealed in all of His glory, we can make a connection from that event to our lives today, to our lives this week.

To what Paul talks about in Colossians 1,

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)
Read that last sentence, this gives you the assurance of sharing His glory.

What a glorious promise, what an incredible truth!

So what about the math?

There is a mathematical axiom that dates back to the time before Christ.  It goes like this.

If A=B and B=C, then….

C=A.

Simple, right?

Now let’s apply it to scripture.

In verse 18 of our epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 3, it states this.

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

So the transition could look like  Our Image => Image of Christ

Jesus Christ is the exact likeness, the exact image of God,

Then we are being restored to what we were created to be, going all the way back to Genesis,

27  So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

This is amazing, glorious, that we would be undergoing a transfiguration that will leave us sharing in the glory of Christ.

That is the work of God in us!  This is true of you and me, for we are being remade in the image of God!

That Which obscures this in all of us

That is a heavy burden if you consider it for a moment.

Does God expect us to live, to speak, to think… like Jesus, to be like God, in whose image we are created?

Are we going to be judged based on how well we each resemble Jesus?  How our thoughts are His thoughts, whether we love others like He did?
I think that is the problem the Jews had, for they measured their righteousness against the Old Covenant law. Because of that, all they could see was failure, they missed the presence of God.  They hear the “you shall keep the Sabbath Day Holy” and miss the idea that we find rest in God’s presence, as He gathers us together, as His family.  They hear “you shall not bear false testimony,” and look around at all the evil and unrighteousness, not realizing the comfort and security we have, trusting Jesus to care for us as promised.

Legalism comes from looking at the rules, and trying to keep them, without realizing why we do so.  As we focus on the law, we are blinded to the God, who describes our life with Him in that law.

Because we are blinded, we miss Him!

If the Law is our focus, our lives our failures, for the burden is beyond anything anyone can accomplish.  Judged by that law, we know what scripture tells, we all fall short of His glory.  All have sinned, no one is good, no one but God!.

Even the reflection of God’s glory in the face of Moses would fade…as it did as Moses left the presence of God.

How this transformation occurs

This transformation then is not by our effort; it never could be!  We cannot keep the law perfectly.  That veil, that inability to look to God, to recognize His presence can only be removed by God.

Notice it says,

18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.

We’ve had that veiled removed; it is not something we’ve done. It is the work of Christ, on the cross, and pays for all our sin.  It is the Holy Spirit at work as well, who through word and sacraments like baptism and the Eucharist assures us that we are united to Jesus.  United to Him in death, and then that death, that veil removed as we rise with Him, cleansed and healed.  We’ve become adopted children of God our Father.

We are being transformed into His image, even as we see the glory of God in Christ, as we adore Him.  As we look to Him, as our focus moves off of our sins and failures, and off of those around us, we begin to reflect that glory, it becames more and more natural…

That is why Paul tells the church in Ephesus,

4  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)

This transformation we are undergoing, it gives to God great pleasure!

This transformation, where the Spirit removes the veil in baptism, who keeps us close as we commune, as we hear that our sins are forgiven, that we can see God!

What this transformation looks like..

What an amazing change this is in life, to know God’s desire is fulfilled in reconciling us to Himself, in revealing His presence in every aspect of our life!  In securing us to Jesus.

The results?  Paul talks about this way of God giving us boldness, that we will never give up!  That as His mercy is revealed, as we know it is mercy and love towards us, we stand in that love.

Everything else fails away, for there is nothing that compares to it.  We do not have to force God’s love on people; we simply share the hope we have.  We do not have to put out false images of perfect lives, we can share the hope that comes from seeing God, and that image becomes imprinted on us.

It is why Paul can use the “image” idea as he tells the people in Corinth,

33  I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I do not just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 1  And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1 (NLT)

Going back to our math, and the A=B and B=C, we find ourselves, our eyes on Christ, running a race without thought of sin, just focusing on Him.  We see that image imprinted on Paul. Knowing His love, being transformed into His image.

We find ourselves doing what Christ did, inviting people into the presence of God, making the sacrifices that would remove that which blocks them from Him.  For that is what He did.

So look to Jesus, for you can see Him!  He is the author and perfector of your faith, who with joy gave it all, discounting the shame, the pain!  Who now waits for us at the right hand of the Father!

That is our destination; that is why the Spirit transforms us, readying us for that day.  Comforting, empowering, causing us to grow and transform, as we dwell in His amazing peace. AMEN!

The Hard Lesson From the Manger…..we have to share in it…

Featured image

Artwork by my friend, and soon to be ordained Mark Jennings. His artwork (either originals or prints) is available through http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html

Devotional THought fo the Day:

1  Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2  I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4  And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5  The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6  He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7  Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.

1  Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

562      When I preach that we have to make ourselves a carpet so that the others may tread softly, I am not simply being poetic: it has to be a reality! It’s hard, as sanctity is hard; but it’s also easy, because, I insist, sanctity is within everyone’s reach.  (1)

We have a fear of being taken advantage of, one that can easily consume us.

I feel it every time I get a phone call, and the person promises to come to church, if only we would pay their rent, or buy their meds, or provide them with money to buy food. I feel it when I get that text message at 10pm or 2am, knowing that the people need to listen, more than they are ready to hear my wisdom.

I see my fellow pastors, and all those who minister at this time of year struggling with it to, because they put in some much work, and sometimes only see a few people who will benefit from it.  Or we fear that this is the year when only 3 people will show up for the midnight service.on Christmas Eve. I see in it families, where one member always feels underappreciated, even as they continue to meet the needs of others in it.

We don’t like to be taken advantage of, we don’t want to be walked all over.

And that fear is confronted by the words of St. Josemaria Escriva.  What?  You think we should allow ourselves to be run over, run down, wiped out?  You want us to be a carpet or door mat that people can walk all over, grinding into us the mud on their feet?  He wants us to just take it, and serve people, knowing we may never even get a simple thank you?

(quick disclaimer – I am not talking about being run over by sexual, physical or emotional abuse)

But yeah, St. Josemaria is saying exactly what Paul is saying in Philippians 2.  The lesson of Jesus, lying there in the manger.  Lying there, with the shadow of the cross already promised, with the stripes that will be caused by whips already accepted, with the humiliation, with the fact that the very people that will praise Him, that He’s come to save… spitting on Him, cursing Him, nailing Him to the cross.

That Jesus would suffer all of that, to save us.  He through whom everything that has been created was created, becoming a infant, needing sustenance from another, needing another to change His diapers. That level of humiliation at the manger and at the cross, is first and above all, a picture of God’s love.

It is also a picture of God’s plan for our lives, here, during this life.

Paul knew that – and tried to live that way, accepting times of hardship, taking on the sacrifice it would take, including the humility to not strike back. but instead to let people see the strength of Christ-crucified, Christ-Incarnate alive in Him.

And he calls us to imitate him, as He imitates Jesus.  To live in Christ as Paul strived to, to have that attitude, that being a carpet doesn’t matter, that seeing people reconciled to the Father is far greater a reward than inconvenience, sacrifice, even martyrdom.

This is the lesson – that little Baby, willing left Heaven for you…. so you could walk with Him……in good times and bad.

that’s the lesson we need to remember…..

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2107-2110). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Work of Love to Important to Leave to a Few…

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

Before Christ and my own conscience I assure you that I am speaking the plain truth when I say that there is something that makes me feel very depressed, like a pain that never leaves me. It is the condition of my brothers and fellow-Israelites, and I have actually reached the pitch of wishing myself cut off from Christ if it meant that they could be won for God. Romans 9:1 (Phillips NT) 

622 Do you realise how much depends on whether you are soundly prepared or not? Many, many souls! And now will you cease to study or work with perfection? (1)

There is a attitude in the church today, that needs to be confronted, that needs to be corrected.  It is the idea that our lives are our own, that we have no obligation to work in the Kingdom of God.  We have no obligation to tell people about God’s love, to either them, or to God.

We’d love to leave that to pastors (and pastors leave it to missionaries!) or to the religious fanatics.  We don’t want the obligation and the obligations that come when those people we share God’s love with need to be loved…. by us.  Or the obligation to know God’s word beyond the basic “believe and your will be baptized” type promises, the ones assure us that we aren’t going to hell  The obligation of even praying for people is more than most of us are willing to take seriously.

how do we feel when we read Paul’s despair over the people of Israel?  Is such love a foreign thing to us?

His is not the only love like this – look at Moses making a similar offer to God.  What about Abraham, so worried about Sodom and Gommorah that he would bargain with God, over and over.  These weren’t the best people these men of God tried to save, it was rebellious sinful people.   The same kind of people around us.  Will we hear their cries?  Will we know their pain?

The problem is this idea that satan convinced the church of, that sharing our faith is an obligation, that it is commanded and we must do it.  We buy into that, because it gives us an out – if it is law – we assume our guilt, claim to repent, and go our merry way, assured we are forgiven.

But sharing our treasured hope is not a matter of law – it is a matter of love.  To look at those who suffer under the burden of shame and guilt, who are enslaved to sin, who are broken because of it.  Who try to find their peace in bottles or drugs or anything that will numb the pain, that will allow them to ignore it, or set it aside.  To look on these people is to see the need they have, that we know can be met, that can bring about healing and holiness.

It is a matter of loving them, and remembering when we realized what forgiveness is, what the promises of our baptism brings, what it means to know that God looks at us as His children, whom He chose to adopt.

We look those who don’t know Him, whom Jesus endured the shame of the cross to save… and we know we are called ot love them…..to be the ones who point them to life, to rest, to walking with God. Can we picture them, as the burdens are lifted, as the sins are removed, as the joy fills their hearts?

Lord, you’ve made us your children, help us to be patient, and desire that non perish…..and help us to embrace any sacrifice that will help us lead others into Your family.  AMEN!.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2629-2631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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